Cincinnati gets A+ as host for 2012 World Choir Games

CINCINNATI - As the 2012 World Choir Games came to a rousing finish Saturday in Cincinnati, the city was drawing widespread praise for its organization and friendliness.  There were also lots of lessons learned for future civic events.

"Absolutely an A+ for Cincinnati as a community," said Dan Lincoln, President of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau.  "I have never seen so much love and affection and hospitality from Cincinnati before.  We're known for it.  This is what we do well, but we took it to a another level."

Lori Lobsiger, North American Markets Director for Interkultur, the Frankfurt, Germany, organization that staged the games, had similar sentiments.

"Everything went beyond our wildest expectations," she said.  "I can't begin to tell you the number of comments I have had -- people from other countries who have struggled to try to say to me in English how friendly and how hospitable our people in Cincinnati have been.  Our police department -- friendly and reaching out."

The games drew 326 choirs in 23 musical categories with 15,000 participants from 64 different nations during it's two-week stay in the Queen City.  Nearly every ticketed concert, ceremony or competition sold out.

Lincoln had little trouble in rattling off a list of what the city did well.  

     * The organizing committee spent two to three years getting every detail right.  

     * Nearly 5,000 people volunteered to help the choirs feel at home.
     * Metro, Accent on Cincinnati and First Student made sure people got where they needed to go.   
     * The Cincinnati Police Department's officers guided traffic, kept venues secure and acted as civic ambassadors.  
     * Cincinnati Fire Department personnel oversaw everyone's health -- especially during days of 100 degree heat.  

     * The venues were well-run and the competitions were well-staged.

"You have lots of little glitches, but no major glitches," he said.  "We feel very proud of how the organizational structure went and the organizing team of so many people."

Nick Vehr, Managing Director for the 2012 World Choir Games, said he too was proud of the way Cincinnati embraced the world.

"The people of Cincinnati smiled.  They were friendly.  They were helpful," he said.  "They were proud that the world came to see us and I think they extended a hospitality that was over the top."

The estimated economic impact of the games is $73 million.  The budget was $10 million and Vehr said there will not be a deficit.

"It was a combination of a little more raised, a little less spent and tickets exceeding expectations," he said.  "All those things came together and I'm just convinced that we're going to be just fine."

Because the games were a planned event, it gave the city a chance to practice its organizational skills on a large scale.  That will come in handy for future emergencies or other major events.

One may come very soon.  An announcement is expected within a short time on a North America/South America choir competition to be held in Cincinnati within the next two years.

"I think the lesson learned for our city is how exciting it was when everybody comes together and how magic can happen," said Vehr.

Asked what the city might have done better, Lincoln said more and bigger venues could have been used because of the high ticket demand.

"I think in hindsight that would be one thing we would have liked to have," he said.

Lobsiger said the organizing committee probably could have added more concerts.

"People enjoyed the concerts," she said.  "That would have been a new model for us."

With the final choirs starting to department from the Queen City and the 2014 World Choir Games headed to Riga, Latvia, Lobsiger said she has a wish she hopes will come true.

"People are going to leave Cincinnati and say, 'I think I saw the real America.  The people were so kind.  They were so friendly to us and so helpful,'" she said.  "Without question, that's what they're going to say about Cincinnati."

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